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An early tribe shuffle leads to a fun Survivor

Illustration for article titled An early tribe shuffle leads to a fun iSurvivor/i
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After two episodes things must have been getting too comfortable on Survivor: Second Chance—or too predictable—because the producers are already changing things up. Now what were two (somewhat lopsided) tribes become three (somewhat lopsided) tribes, and the game begins anew. This is great move in theory because it shakes up the game dynamics, but seeing as there were only two episodes of game dynamics to disrupt it’s difficult to feel any sort of excitement or sadness, as we were already barely acquainted with what is actually going on in the game, strategy-wise. Still, the early shuffle has one thing to rely on to keep things interesting: The Abi Effect.

Despite this weird early shuffle causing a bit of cognitive dissonance, I still sort of loved this episode. The biggest reason it worked is how it was constructed (perhaps accidentally, perhaps knowingly) like a slow-moving train wreck, where you see the train coming far off in the distance but can’t seem to get out of the way. The train in this analogy is Abi, of course, and the people who can’t seem to get out of her way is basically everyone in her orbit. From the moment the tribes realign, leaving Jeff, Woo, Peih-Gee, and Abi all on the same tribe, and Woo immediately pleads for them to stay together, it’s obvious they won’t no matter how hard they try.


From there, once their new tribe is established as miserable and hating everything about their new situation, it’s fairly obvious they are going to Tribal, but completely not obvious what will happen once they get there. Jeff, Woo, Abi, and Peih-Gee have an easy four-person alliance that can band together and vote out Tasha and Savage, but any alliance that contains Abi is hard to be considered an alliance at all, considering her unpredictability. Unexpectedly, it looks like it will be Jeff Varner who upsets the alliance balance when he gets into a fight with Tasha at the end of the Immunity Challenge, after she sees him communicating with rival tribe member Kelly Wigglesworth. This fight makes Savage and Tasha think they can recruit some of Jeff’s alliance-mates into switching over to their side, but while Woo considers it Peih-Gee is skeptical.

The key to the whole volatile situation happens when Peih-Gee goes to Abi to discuss potentially aligning with Savage and Tasha instead of their original alliance. While Peih-Gee doesn’t really want to do it, Abi immediately says she’s on the bottom of her current alliance and is going to jump ship to join Andrew and Tasha in voting out Jeff. From there, it becomes a more personal fight between Peih-Gee and Abi, with Peih-Gee now targeting Abi and Abi targeting Peih-Gee. All of this shifting takes the four former members of Ta Keo—four people who could have easily banded together in an uneasy alliance for a few weeks to get rid of Andrew and Tasha—and puts them on the bottom of a six-person tribe, with Andrew and Tasha in charge. It’s an unthinkable situation, until you realize Abi is involved and when she is involved literally anything can happen. This is why some people like watching her in the game; not because she’s a great player, but she is a player who removes all of the logic out of the strategy of Survivor and turn it into something entirely different.


The funniest part of the whole situation might be Jeff Varner, who went from a potential goner to sitting pretty in the span of just a few hours. Even though he manages to scrape by, that doesn’t stop him from being very vocal at Tribal about Andrew and Tasha being in charge of the vote. Whether this is him deflecting some of the heat away from himself, or simply putting the current game dynamics out in the open on his tribe so he can use that later as a bargaining chip in his own game, it’s another example of Jeff being a surprisingly adaptable and fun player to watch this time around. Between him, Kelley Wentworth, and Jeremy finding his own idol for the first time, it’s a good week for individual players who might be important as the game progresses. Overall the episode is a great mix of Survivor crazy, Survivor misery, and Survivor skill, and a lot of fun to watch.

Stray observations:

  • Spencer has feelings! Sort of! I enjoy that he says he needs to be more emotional, succeeds at emotionally connecting with Jeremy, and then meticulously analyzes the entire interaction in a confessional. It’s multi-layered and truly great.
  • The new Ta Keo’s repeated boasting about how great their tribe is seemed like it might be setting them up for a fall, but nope. Setting them up for a big-time win. If you shuffle into a tribe with Joe you have to be feeling pretty good about your challenge chances.
  • The new Bayon is a pretty great mix. And Monica exists now!
  • What would Savage think of Jeremy’s glee in finding an idol?
  • Woo is forever confused when it comes to what’s actually going on in the game around him. Oh, Woo.
  • “Second time you write my name.” Woo needs to watch himself in his sleep tonight.

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